15 June, 2015 15 June, 2015

Growing Pains – by Hermann Vivier

It’s not only our ocean playground that is under threat, on land the situation isn’t great either. ‘Growing Pains’ is Hermann Vivier’s entry into Write To Surf – Zag’s surf journo competition with some epic prizes by Billabong up for grabs (see below for details).

GROWING PAINS – by: Hermann Vivier


When, as a young boy, my father went on family holidays to the little west-coast town where I eventually grew up surfing, they would walk knee-deep into the ocean and collect crayfish for dinner. Today, that same little town has been swallowed by the expanding metropolis of Cape Town and it’s more likely that you’ll find plastic covered in Chinese writing.

Modern humans. We’ve figured out how to do all kinds of funky things. We can check forecasts on the other side of the planet and watch guys surfing in a different time zone. All on a hand-held portable device. But despite all this gadgetry somehow we’ve still gone backwards. We’re the first generation threatening the survival of an entire planet.

Our ancestors lived their lives knowing that their children would inherit the earth, with all its abundance, just as they inherited it from their parents. We, on the other hand, cannot be that confident.


Oceanic gyres have created toxic islands of plastic waste. Rainforests are all but gone. For the first time in recorded history the Arctic Ocean is not covered with summer ice. Entire species are disappearing faster than during the previous mass extinction. We’ve hit the planet harder than an asteroid from space.

Shit. If we continue this way our children will have to settle for surfing indoor wave pools and climbing pot-planted trees. If anything at all…

We truly are at an infantile stage of development. Like a baby we cannot clean up after ourselves. And before you yawn and call me an environmentalist, let me remind you: you’re one too. Whether you like it or not.

I can understand if a rugby player doesn’t give a damn about the environment. But when we go surfing we’re closer to mother nature than most people ever get. Surfers should be at the vanguard of the most virulent environmentalism. We should be the ones showing Sea Shepard how it’s done, because the very thing that gives meaning to our lives is being destroyed. Every day.


And perhaps the average person doesn’t see it. But if you’ve ever surfed alone, you’ll know. Mother Nature is vast beyond comprehension. Thus, with her bountiful expanse, she’s been tolerating us for so long that the ignorant assume her patience to be endless. But like any mother with a crying manboy constantly shitting himself, at some point she’s going to get gatvol.

There is only so much water in her oceans and air in her atmosphere. She cannot absorb endless amounts of poison. She will reach her breaking point and only then, when it’s already too late, will those with their head stuck up their rectum finally notice the obvious.

There needs to be a drastic shift in the way we live our lives. Now. This is our only mother-ship and she’s being sucked dry while we expand our endless civilization of waste and destruction. Will you wait until your wax job is ruined by an oil spill before you stop and reconsider?

And it’s not good enough to buy boardshorts made from recycled plastic or ride a bicycle to the beach. Sure, these are great ideas, but if we do that and nothing else we’re simply delaying the inevitable. Slightly.


Because how’s it going to solve the problem if I make one cup of coffee instead of two, while Eskom continues using coal to generate electricity? I could make a million cups of coffee for the energy it requires to mine that coal in the first place!

And those bastards in high offices know this. They’re laughing and making big bucks while we’re paying through our noses for the very stuff that’s suffocating us.

Technologically we have what it takes to save this wonderful playground for our children to enjoy as we still barely do. But it’s going to take some effort. And we’ll have to do it ourselves. No politician or corporate will ever climb onto a jet-ski and slingshot us towards the channel. Because they’re not trained for it. They’re pop-stars and money-junkies.

It’s our responsibility because we’ve allowed this to happen. Just because someone is selling shit, doesn’t mean we have to buy it. We don’t have to pretend we don’t smell the stench. We have what it takes to grow up and clean up after ourselves. Off course, the usual suspects who profit from the status quo aren’t going to help us. But we don’t need them to. We have the power to change it.


We would need to cover an area equal to less than 5% of the Sahara Desert with solar panels to power the entire world. Relatively that’s nothing. And it’s just one example.

If we really want future generations to experience nature and the joy of surfing in the ocean, we must accept responsibility. Now. We’ll need to change our ways. The question is do we have the balls to take the drop? Or will we pull back and wait for the next set? Because it might not come until after it’s too late.

Click here to check out all the published stories from our Write To Surf competition.


Send your stories to calvin@zigzag.co.za. One submission will be selected every six weeks to appear in Zigzag magazine. The selected submission will also receive a hamper from Billabong. At the end of the year, we will select and send one aspirant journalist from the competition on an all expenses paid assignment for a major feature in Zigzag. Zigzag retains the right to use any work submitted for the Zag Surf Journo competition on zigzag.co.za as outlined in the rules and terms of the competition. Zigzag reserves the right not to award a published winner in the magazine every six weeks, depending on the quality of entries. Zigzag is not obligated to run any and all entries submitted, either online or in print. Zigzag retains the right to edit all work submitted for brevity and / or clarity. Please note: Prize hampers will only be delivered within South Africa.

The Billabong prize hamper includes: 1 x Billabong Wetsuit; 1 x Billabong Hoodie; 1 x Billabong Cap; 1 x Von Zipper Sunnies; 2 x Da Kine traction pads.



  1. john1997
    17 June, 2015 at 1:17 am · Reply

    “We would need to cover an area equal to less than 5% of the Sahara Desert with solar panels to power the entire world.”

    Can that be backed up with a specific reference to scientific research?

    And; admittedly, 5% is a small portion of 100% but the Sahara Desert is quite big.(Imagine the biggest city in the world, carpeted wall-to-wall with solar panels and then multiply).

    If it can happen, I’m all for it.

    • Hermann Vivier
      19 June, 2015 at 10:11 am · Reply

      Hi John
      Thanks for reading the piece.

      The info on surface area needed for solar panels was pulled from:

      They got their info from the US Department of Energy.

      According to their research a total area of 496,805 square km will need to covered with solar panels to power the world by 2030. And according to Wikipedia the Sahara Desert covers an area of 9,400,000 square kilometres. That’s 5% in 2030. To cover today’s usage we’re talking about an even smaller percentage.

      However, numbers isn’t the point here. The point is that it’s a relatively small area. Yes. The Sahara Desert is big. But relative to the entire world, 5% of the Sahara isn’t that much. Not if we’re talking about a sustainable solution to world energy consumption.

      And, it’s merely an example to illustrate the scale.

      Off course I’m not suggesting that we actually build a solar megalopolis in the desert. Could you just imagine the politics involved in that!?

      That 5% surface area can easily be achieved with roof mounted solar panels. We would far exceed the required surface area if the roof on every house in the world was covered in solar panels.

      As a matter of feasibility, check out this video:

      It’s the debut of Tesla Motor’s Powerwall Unit. Very interesting.

      • Indy J
        23 June, 2015 at 12:40 pm · Reply

        Herman yeah I reckon that is the lengths we need to go to sustain world energy needs in next 25 yrs….MASSIVE Solar “farms”. One thing is for sure the Solar Panel companies share prices would sky rocket even more than they are now….like Microsoft share price was to PC’s. Would need some anti terrorism force field or something if we became dependent on that….sci-fi movie style.

        Bottom Line is you need forward thinking that works in time scales of 30+years to resolve global issues.

        Case in point -our very own Eishkom…would there have been powercuts now if the politicians had listened to the Engineers 25 years ago ?

        Same applies to conserving the oceans resources.

  2. Daager112
    18 June, 2015 at 1:01 pm · Reply

    Spot on. Great entry. I think we still have it pretty good in Durban, and I’ve seen more life in the water over the last year than previously, but the water is still pretty empty of life. I don’t see the fishermen catching much. I wonder if the reunion shark attack saga stems from over fishing. Maybe we focus so much on the other issues in this country that the environment takes a backseat because it seems less immediate. But its not, and should be one of our first priorities.

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